That’s it. Indonesia’s dream of Olympic gold has been shattered. For the first time since the badminton was introduced in the Summer Games in 1992, Indonesian contingents will be going home without a gold bling to exhibit, following the defeat of mixed doubles pair Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, and men’s doubles pair Muhammad Ahsan and Bona Septano.
There will be no tears-shedding moment where our athlete draped in Merah Putih flag with the ultimate medal hanging on the neck while the national anthem is being played. The pantheon of Indonesian Olympic gold-medalists that consists the likes of Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma in Barcelona 1992, Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky in Atlanta 1996, Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan in Sydney 2000, Taufik Hidayat in Athens 2004, and Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan in Beijing 2008, will not have a new grand member at this year’s Olympics.
Technically, Indonesia still has two other athletes who are yet to compete, Triyatningsih in marathon and Ferdinand Lumain in men’s 100 m sprint, but their realistic target is nothing more than sharpening their respective personal records. Medals are beyond the horizon. With all due respect, how does Ferdinand, whose personal best is 10.50 seconds, stand his chance against Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt? Good luck to him, but the question should have not been asked at the first place.
The relentless fear of going home without a gold medal had been a menacing threat after our inaugural golds in Barcelona. “Keep the gold tradition” is the mantra that has been repeated every 4 years. In the past, our athletes might not perform convincingly in the build-up to the final match, but somehow we still got away with golds. Then we started to think that getting an Olympic gold is like a god-given right for Indonesia, like in every Olympic there’s a gold medal that has “Indonesia” engraved on it before the games even start. In a way, we took it for granted.
Badminton has been our forte, our playing ground where, not only we stand an actual chance to get a gold, Indonesian athletes are traditionally seen as one of the big boys. Unfortunately, that also means that our sporting scheme is undiversified. If we cocked up in badminton – something that had never happened before – then we would get a huge problem looking for the gold from elsewhere.
The thing is we’re hardly good enough in anything else. We took the world by fire in Dragon Boat, but it’s not an Olympic sport. Our basketball, volleyball and beach volleyball teams show promise but it’s still a long way to go until we can reach the Olympic standards. We’re clearly disadvantaged in aquatic sports and athletics where physical built and posture have a significant role. And don’t let me started on our football team. It’s practically a joke, and an unfunny one.
If there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s the weightlifting. Indonesia has been earning Olympic medals in this sport since the turn of century. We got 1 silver and 2 bronze in Sydney, 1 silver in Athens, 2 bronze in Beijing, and 1 silver and 1 bronze in London, which is likely to be our only medals this year if Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir lose their bronze medal playoff in badminton.
I don’t know how weightlifting development and training works, but from a common perspective, how hard does it take to convert the silver into gold? We got a few medals in the last 4 Olympics, it means that we don’t actually suck at this sport.
Hey, we’re actually good in lifting weights. But do our people really realize that we’re good in it?
Look at how Triyatno and Eko Yuli Irawan gave their medal-winning performances, those are the muscles that have spared the embarrassment of going home empty-handed for Indonesia. They were the same lifters who won medals in Beijing. How many of us are aware of their existence in the interval? Not many.
I fully understand the nature of weightlifting as a non-game sport that makes it difficult to sell as a spectacle, but have we given our lifters the recognition they deserved?
Another unheralded Indonesian athlete stole the show in London. The female archer Ika Yuli Rochmawati who ranked 76th beaten the world number 3 en route to the women’s individual eight-finals elimination. Ika almost went through to the quarterfinals before losing to Russian archer in tie-breaker. But how many Indonesian athletes could beat the world number 3 in their sports? To compare it with football, Indonesia played the world number 3 Uruguay in 2010 and we lost 7-1.
A fact little known to the younger generations is that the first ever medal for Indonesia in Olympics came from archery in Seoul 1988.
Badminton will still be a spine to our Olympic triumph in the future. After all, we’re still considered as giants (a sleeping one, if you may) in this discipline, but we should start building around other sports with potential success. Let’s start from weightlifting. Considering how much money we have spent on football without any outcome, it would be a travesty if we don’t put similar effort on Olympic medal-winning sports.